On leaving Istanbul we headed off to Ankara. The mission was really to spend some time with the Hittites starting with a visit to the highly rated Museum of Anatolian Civilisations located below the Ankara Castle.
As the Museum was closed on Sunday we did a quick inspection of the castle and decided to return the following morning before heading off the find the old Hittite Capital at Hattusha.
The rather crummy night spent in another service station, meant the following day, that we felt we should at least have a coffee in the old Caravanserai hotel next to the Castle and this justified our taking up a very precious (and safe) parking space right outside the hotel.
We trotted off to the Museum. Many archeological finds from Hattusha and other rich sites, were on display. The quality of the exhibits was phenomenal and certainly helped to paint a more vivid picture and to prepare us for the visit to the Hattusha site.
(For those interested, Ḫattusha was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. Its ruins lie near modern Boğazkale, Turkey, within the great loop of the Kızılırmak River. Hattusa was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986. Wikipedia.
The Hittites were an Ancient Anatolian people who established an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BC.
The 6 kilometre site at Hattusa was in a beautiful rural setting. Jim spent quite a long time tramping around and I then had fun driving up into the site with Landy, on a permitted cobble route which overlooked most of the settlements and ruins. Needless to say, sunny spells were interspersed with strong winds and rain! I scuttled back into the car rather more quickly than was entirely seemly - according to Jim!
We eventually arrived in Cappadocia and had arranged to camp in Göreme at Panorama Camping. I had no idea what to expect and was amazed. The campsite had stonking views of the unique landscape. If you haven’t seen it you should come.
The facilities on the campsite left something to be desired, but there was a toilet block and warm water in the showers, even if it involved a fairly treaturous climb down steep stone stairs and metal staircase to reach them. The weather was still changeable but we had enough sunshine to risk getting out the car tent and awning. We invited Keiran, an Irish cyclist to join us for a drink and we got a bit carried away with the Romanian grog kindly donated to the cause by Costica! Some of us paid the price and the following day proceeded very slowly.
We took in the Göreme museum of 11th century churches cut into the rock. The following day we hiked through the landscape of Pigeon and Love Valleys and were lucky to have a sunny but fairy cool day for our exertions.
The last day in Göreme became incredibly windy in our exposed Panoramic hilltop position. We rapidly took down our awnings and battened down the hatches before the storm landed and we hunkered down in the Landy. The campsite was expecting to be full of an Ankara Tenting festival the following day. However, it was a scary night and the winds battered our canvas most of the night and the rain pelted down. In the morning I had slept very little.
Jim got out to visit the facilities and came back with the muddiest trainers I had ever ever seen. It was really wet and sticky. I decided to stay in the car and to get us off site as soon as possible! Heaven help the Ankara Tenting festival. We were just glad we had our lovely hike the previous day.
Time to move towards the border with Iran.
The drive between Cappadocia and Dogubeyazit involved travelling through a series of high mountain passes for a couple of days. The scenery was great and the weather was still ‘changeable’. So we still had heavy rain and snow on the passes and some occasional sunshine. We began to feel like we were somewhere completely different.
Another night in a mountain service station passed uneventfully, but again we woke up with Landy covered in snow and set off for the border with Iran in a snow storm! As we reduced height the weather started to clear up and we began to feel hopeful.
We arrived in Dogubeyazit and it was dry but very cloudy. We had no idea that from our hotel balcony, when the clouds lifted in the morning, that the sun rose on Mount Ararat, a 5000m pile of mountain. We went out of town to find a spot for the photo.
We had a day to kill at the Iranian border and we stayed in a hotel in for a spruce up! Jim asked them for advice on a visit to Mount Ararat and was told to drive to ‘the village’ of Meteor Pulaski. This involved approaching the Iranian border, doing a U-turn and going on an off-road track past a serious looking check point parallel with the border. We saw a dusty village on the horizon which we thought might be our destination and negotiated our way through the check point, who insisted on keeping our passports until we returned. We nervously set off on the dusty track and soon found ourselves on the edge of a massive crater. Only then did we realise that something had been lost in translation and we had been sent to a massive meteor hole in the ground about which we knew nothing. However Landy looks nice against the mountains and we did get our passports back from the intrigued checkpoint guards.
Ishak Pasha Palace
After the meteor, we headed off to find the Ishak Pasha Palace. This involved some serious climbing for Landy and we found the Palace open to visitors surrounded by astounding views of the mountains.
Unfortunately Mount Ararat was in cloud by then. We loved the Palace and had fun interacting with Turkish visitors who were intrigued to see us and many young people wanted photos with us.
My only sadness was that we passed an amazing camping spot on the way to the Palace, in which we saw our first other Overlanding Pop-top. We intended to find them on the way down - but they had left!
On approaching the border, we were shocked by the hundreds if not thousands of TIR vehicles waiting to cross the border from Turkey into Iran at 8am. We had passed the previous day and seen maybe 50-100 lorries queuing, but the numbers had massively increased. We thought perhaps the M2 will become a lorry park in Kent after Brexit?
The weather was looking up and we had fab views again of Mount Ararat as we approached the border sailing past all the lorries.
Leaving Turkey was very straightforward and when we got to the Iranian border we were ushered past coaches and indeed a few other cars. It felt like we were given VIP treatment and everyone was so polite.
Jim and I were separated because I had to stay with the car as it went through it’s checks and Jim had to go through a pedestrian route. He had a few problems when they asked for a copy of the Turkish electronic visa, (who knows why)which was in the car with me in Iran! I tried to go back to give it to him but was told it was unnecessary. So a bit of an impasse.
Eventually one border guard ushered me through all the remaining formalities and we were met by our Guide (Reza from Pars) whilst the process was progressing. (I cannot believe how many signatures are required from different desks to get through.)
Eventually Jim and I were reunited and completed the process together. The car search was minimal. A brief look in one locker. They asked if we had alcohol and I said no and that was it.
The only fly in the ointment was that the helpful guard hung onto my paperwork until he had been given a thank you present! Jim eventually gave him 8 dollars. He suggested at first that it was a tax and then admitted it was just for oiling the wheels. We could have got out without it by pushing it or reporting him but it was quicker just to give him a few notes.
Hello sunshine and hello Iran.